A.D.ministration: Developing and sustaining quality coaches
There are fewer teachers and more non-faculty individuals serving in coaching positions than any time in the history of high school athletics. For some athletic administrators, finding qualified coaches is difficult, and for others, it can be next to impossible.
In the corporate world, companies typically provide training for new hires. These individuals might have a college degree relative to their position and previous work experience. However, corporations want their employees to do things their way, with established procedures and methods. Businesses also provide ongoing training and continuing education to ensure the highest quality of work. This is important to produce superior products or services, which, in turn, create a profit.
Considering the corporate approach, athletic administrators may have to shift focus and take on a larger role in developing coaches. With a smaller pool of candidates or limitations of those who are qualified, providing instruction and experiences to improve the quality of coaches may be a necessary step.
Will this corporate model take additional time and effort? The obvious answer is yes, but the ultimate responsibility for the quality of coaches falls on the athletic director’s shoulders. You are the leader of the program, and that means serving as the human resources administrator. As noted in the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Leadership Training Course 504, providing training is one of your 14 legal responsibilities.
How can you improve the quality of your coaches? These suggestions should help.
1. Schedule monthly training.
Schedule an hour of in-service, professional development session one Monday of each month. This day usually has the fewest scheduled contests.
The professional development session starts after school and no practice sessions may start for 15 minutes after the meeting ends. In advance of each professional development day, coaches should inform parents to make travel arrangements to cover a later practice session.
2. Diversify subject matter.
Plan and prepare sessions covering different topics, and select issues or themes in which most of your coaches will benefit. Include specific groups within your staff, such as new and inexperienced coaches. Use these educational efforts in whatever form works best in your setting, but do something that improves the competencies of your staff.
3. Choose insightful speakers.
Find someone best suited to lead the training sessions. It can be the athletic administrator, or someone with specific expertise in different topics, like the athletic trainer, information technology (IT) professional or communication practitioner. Not only is it important to utilize leaders in their respective fields to present helpful information to your coaches, it’s also important to hear instruction from someone other than yourself.
4. Use training courses.
Utilize the National Federation of High School Associations’ Learning Center courses — particularly the ones that are free — to augment your in-service approach. Athletic directors can set a deadline for completion, and it’s easy to verify when a coach completes a course, providing a level of accountability.
5. Be punctual.
Make sure that your sessions begin and end on time. This is essential, because practice sessions must be held and associated responsibilities by your coaching staff — supervising the locker rooms, distributing equipment, releasing athletes for travel arrangements — must be covered.
Points of emphasis
Here are some critical topics to cover when developing the new or non-faculty coaches in your program.
• Organization. This segment can include ideas for how to prepare practice plans, keeping an inventory, and distributing uniforms and equipment. An athletic administrator can also explain how to manage forms and complete the eligibility process, submit budget and travel requests, and all paperwork that is associated with coaching responsibilities.
• Communication. Not only should verbal communication be covered, it’s also important to include written communication, including reports, notes, email, social networks and newsletters. While daily instruction and working with athletes can be easy, coaches also have to communicate with parents, teachers, administrators and other groups, which may require guidance. It’s also vital to provide coaches with protocols for proper social media use.
» RELATED: Build the coaching dream team in your school• Philosophical foundations. While education-based athletics should be the concept upon which high school programs operate, it’s important to explain what’s involved. Preparing and striving to win is important, but the growth and development of student-athletes involving lifelong qualities and values is the main objective. The fact that coaches must serve as role models and provide a positive nurturing environment for athletics should be thoroughly covered.
• Risk management and injury prevention. These points of emphasis are not exciting or at the forefront for many, but they are essential to provide a safe environment for student-athletes. Many coaches need guidance to understand their role in keeping athletes safe and enlisting the assistance of your athletic trainer, head of your grounds crew and similar personnel can be helpful to provide the details.
• Education beyond sports. In the realm of education-based athletics, it’s necessary to include opportunities for young people to learn sportsmanship, gain leadership skills and other qualities. It’s also important that coaches value and learn how to use teachable moments, involve their teams in community service efforts, and teach athletes how to compete with class and humility.
When quality coaching candidates may be in short supply, it’s up to you to improve the abilities of those who do have a role in your program. Enhancing the quality of your coaches should be the No. 1 goal of athletic administrators.
David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.